In my humble opinion, there is a lot to be said about the third generation of anything. Albeit computers, products, services and even settlers, to me, third generation is the consummate pivotal point. Sure they are not the pioneers or the quintessential ‘game changers’ but they (or it) have absorbed the initial hardships, made the adaptive changes and have proven their intention to stay. The third generation are the ones that start pushing boundaries again and this viewpoint ties in very nicely with the fact that I have just been given the keys to the new, third generation Porsche Cayenne S. Funny that.
With its original model year dating back to 2003, the Cayenne has silenced many of its critics by thoroughly establishing itself as one of the benchmarks in sports/luxury performance SUVs. This year sees the Cayenne enter its third reiteration and as I stated before, it’s back to pushing boundaries.
I was given the Cayenne S for a couple of days and rest assured, as this was the first time I’d driven a Cayenne, I used this time wisely. According to the Porsche literature, the Cayenne is based heavily on the concept of the iconic 911 sports car, but this new model takes a lot of its cues from both the Macan and the Panamera (and a little from the 918, apparently).
First of all, at nearly 5m long (an increase of 63mm) and 2m wide, there’s no denying it’s big, however, the Cayenne S carries it well, especially as its height has been lowered by 9mm. There is an ease to the way it handles the town and city traffic, you don’t get the usual sense of SUV superiority—which in my mind is a good thing. It’s lighter by 65kg thanks to every component being scrutinised (for example, it now has a lithium-ion polymer starter battery, which alone accounts for a weight saving of 10kg), the chassis has lost weight and there is an increased use of aluminium; in fact, the entire exterior is made of the stuff.
Design-wise, the new Cayenne has a more sporty look to the nose, with larger front intakes and a more expansive lower front grille. It has further embraced this sporting direction with mixed tyre sizes (wider at the rear) and rear-axle steering, active all-wheel drive as standard, Porsche 4D Chassis Control, three-chamber air suspension and the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) electronic roll stabilisation system, oh and a newly developed drivetrain that is a joy to experience.
The Cayenne S has a 2.9-litre V6 bi-turbo engine producing 324kW with a top speed of 265km/h, and since mine came with the optional Sport Chrono Package, it accelerates from zero to 100km/h in under five seconds. All this power is paired sweetly with a new eight-speed Tiptronic S gearbox.
The cabin is full of deep black leather contrasting with shiny chrome accents, most of which Porsche owners will be familiar with. However, the centre console is distinctively modern with its normal array of buttons being replaced by a smartphone-like, glass-look touch surface (originally found in the 918). The 12.3-inch full-HD touchscreen is the heart of the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system (adopted from the new Panamera) and the driver’s central analogue rev counter has two seven-inch full-HD displays either side that can be individualised to suit. More exterior length means increased space inside and the new Cayenne now has an extra 100L of room way back there for more stuff.
On the subject of more, the list of driver and safety aids in the new Cayenne is obviously seemingly endless (seriously, look it up when you have time), and all designed to assist you in keeping this performance SUV controlled (but not inflexibly so). I want to assure you, there is a lot fun to be had with this SUV, the grippier rear-end and better turn-in sees to that.
Having circumnavigated the city streets with admirable aplomb, I took the Cayenne for a jaunt in the forest, I had to get its feet dirty at least once. The new chassis boasts off-road prowess so it seemed rude not to. Although it didn’t really need it, I scrolled through the off-road menu (Mud, Gravel, Sand or Rocks) and took to the uneven gravel road. I have to admit, that even on 21” wheels with low profile rubber, the Cayenne S handled the rough stuff with ease and comfort.
Adding performance SUVs to their range offering has proven to be a highly successful move for this race car brand, it’s a continuing evolving sector that Porsche have firmly established themselves in the driving seat of. Now, with this new chapter of Cayenne, Porsche has kept everyday practicality well in sight but further leveraged their iconic 911 DNA. They have sharpened its design, increased its performance and extended its already impressive technological advancements—you could say that with the third generation Cayenne, Porsche has really turned up the heat.
Words: Dave McLeod